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Escape & Evasion

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Does my bum look big in this?

What is it?

The ancient and noble art of running away and not getting caught, E&E can be perceived either two ways:

  • A 'boys' own' romp in the woods, like hide and seek, but for grown ups.
  • The uncomfortable preamble to a good kicking.

The first type can be fun, running around the local spinney with your mates and hiding in bushes and up trees. A bit like Airsoft, but without the inevitable hail of plastic following you around.

The second type isn't. The grim reality kicks in pretty sharpish. You will invariably be totally fucked before the exercise has even started, and it's all uphill henceforth. Add to this heavy doses of cold, wet and hungry.


E&E is mainly aimed at those most likely to find themselves up to a significant depthage of shit, e.g. aircrew and Special Forces. The likelihood of an AGC clerk being inadvertently deposited hundreds of miles behind enemy lines is unlikely, but stranger things happen at sea - especially in or around Iranian waters.

The word 'escape' is rather a misnomer, as it implies you've already been captured and have somehow managed to either:

  • Dig a tunnel
  • Manufacture a glider out of bog roll
  • Knock up some pretty convincing enemy uniforms out of blankets
  • Pole vault over the wire
  • Knock up some convincing 'papers' out of the trusty arse wipe and mastered flawless German
  • Mastermind an elaborate network of contacts with the local Resistance

In the real world, once you're captured then it's pretty much ENDEX (with loss of iPod privileges) - either for the duration of hostilities or for the rest of time depending how lucky (or unlucky) you are. Contrary to popular belief, Special Forces are not trained to Houdini levels of proficiency, as getting captured is usually not on the menu. Being chained to a radiator in a basement for months on end usually is. Therefore it is a far far better option to evade being nabbed in the first place.


This is the clever bit. The basic rule of evasion is to put as much mileage between you and your pursuers (potential or immediate) as soon as possible. There are all manner of techniques that are applicable to differing environments (urban, jungle, desert etc.) and going in to them in any great detail would be rather foolish. But in a nutshell two things are going to spoil your day:

Mr Woofy

Whilst it is perfectly possible to evade humans - who, let's face it, are quite thick despite 25 million years' worth of evolution - it's rather difficult to give the slip to a creature than can smell one globule of sweat at a range of eighty miles in a light breeze. Once the Furry Crocodile has yo ass, it's ooooovvvvver - as Roy Orbison would say.

Thermal Imaging

Once a very Hi-Tech bit of kit, they can now be purchased off eBay for a tenner, and it's only a matter of time before TI's start appearing on mobile phones. There's not really a lot you can do once one of these is pointed in your direction - especially if it's mounted on a helicopter. No matter how well you're concealed, you might as well as be wearing Christmas lights and be stomping around the undergrowth playing a trombone, as your thermal signature will show you up for the sweating, frightened, primeval savage that you've become since your ordeal began.

Depending which environment you're in, it is certainly possible to extricate oneself from the shit. It's not all doom and gloom - and there have been some astounding accounts of individual resolve - so it's worth doing the course.

The Kit

Whilst SF personnel will use the E&E kit they have in their belt order, they are still trained to survive in the wilderness with nothing but a pointy stick and some attitude. Aircrew types are trained to utilise the kit contained in their survival packs, but like 'them' are also adept at stick sharpening. Chris Ryan escaped with only a Swiss Army Knife and a packet of out-of-date Rolos.

Combat Survival is a subject apart, but in the E&E environment your kit will largely be minimal - if non-existent. If you turn up clad in Gore-Tex with a chest rig packed with Mars bars and baccy tins brimming with firelighters and snare wire then you're in for a big surprise. Hiding it up your hoop will fare you no better. It will all be taken off you and you will be issued with a suit of manky 1950s vintage Battle Dress, a Great Coat and a pair of ill-fitting Boots DMS with no laces.

You will then spend the next couple of days or so getting very cold, wet and hungry in the mistaken belief that they'll never catch you. They will. Some say 'tis better to give up early on and save oneself all the discomfort, and in a training environment there's some logic to this. In real life however...? You will succumb to fatigue. Just a little nap in that thicket to take the edge off and nobody will find out. Unfortunately, the wet nose on the back of your neck and the grinning dog handler signals that somebody just did! There's Roy again. Time for a kicking!